- Posted: 2:59 PM, June 26, 2012
The Houston Rockets have emerged as one of Brooklyn’s chief competitors to secure Howard’s services if the Orlando Magic choose to move their superstar center sometime in the next few weeks after acquiring the No. 18 pick in Thursday’s draft from Minnesota in exchange for small forward Chase Budinger and the rights to forward Lior Eliyahu.
The Rockets now have three picks – Nos. 14, 16 and 18 – in Thursday’s draft, and are still looking to accumulate more assets to try and pry Howard from the Magic, who only hired a new general manager, former Oklahoma City assistant GM Rob Hennigan, last week.
The next piece that Houston is likely to put on the block is point guard Kyle Lowry. After playing at an All-Star level over the first half of the season, Lowry suffered a bacterial infection that sidelined him for much of the second half – allowing for the emergence of backup point guard Goran Dragic in his place – and then trashed Rockets coach Kevin McHale after the season.
Houston is hoping to create a package of draft picks big enough to entice the Magic to send them Howard, despite the fact that Howard’s camp has leaked through several reports in recent days that he would have no interest in signing long-term with the Rockets no matter what happens over the next 12 months.
But the possibility does exist that the Rockets could put together a package big enough to secure Howard on draft night, and then still have enough money left over to make a run at Nets superstar point guard Deron Williams in free agency next week.
SI.com threw cold water on those hopes Tuesday afternoon, however, when it reported that Williams has no intention of playing anywhere next season but Brooklyn or Dallas, the two destinations long thought to be the only ones he will truly consider when he becomes an unrestricted free agent Sunday.
Still, Tuesday’s trade is just the first move in what will surely be a wild couple of weeks in the NBA. And expect the Nets to be front-and-center in much of that discussion, thanks in part to Williams being easily the best free agent on the market this summer, the fact that the team currently has four players on its roster and the ongoing Howard trade talks.